11 November 2018

Imams, Muslim groups outraged by PM’s 'divisive' Bourke Street comments

The Australian National Imams Council is among a number of Muslim organisations accusing Prime Minister Scott Morrison of politicising Friday's Bourke Street attack that left one man dead and two others injured.

The Council called the attack a national tragedy but said it was "outraged" by the Prime Minister's recent comments linking Islam to a radical and dangerous ideology.

"It is extremely disappointing in such difficult times and during a national tragedy, when all Australians of all faiths and backgrounds should be called upon to unite and stand together against any form of extremism and violence, to see our nation's leader politicising this incident and using it for political gain," a statement released on Sunday said.

.... Mr Morrison said while he supported religious freedom, religious extremism must be called out.

"Radical, violent, extremist Islam that opposes our very way of life," he said in a speech on Saturday.

"Religious extremism takes many forms around the world and no religion is immune from it.

"But here in Australia, we would be kidding ourselves if we did not call out the fact that the greatest threat of religious extremism in this country is the radical and dangerous ideology of extremists." [SBS News] Read more

Ecquevilly: The ‘quiet Salafist’ town resisting French integration

While there are signs of hope in this commune west of Paris, a radical preacher’s influence lingers.

.... A minority of French Muslims wish to lead lives divorced from secular western society. This desire became so pronounced in Ecquevilly, under the influence of a charismatic preacher who was born and grew up there, that two reporters from the Catholic daily newspaper, La Croix, recently spent three weeks there observing everyday life.

Their powerful report, its title roughly translating as "Salafism in Daily Life", stretched to several pages and had a profound impact on residents, officials and community leaders.

Until the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks, Ecquevilly had a thriving mosque housed on the ground floor beneath a kindergarten near the imposing town hall depicted as a chateau in a film based on the comic character Tintin.

People travelled from as far as Belgium for Friday prayers, drawn by the persuasive imam Youssef Bounouader, who had limited Islamic scholarship but restyled himself Abou Anas after visits to Yemen and Syria and adopted a strict practice of Islam. Music, dancing and television were discouraged, as was contact with Christians and Jews.

A year after the ISIS murders that left 130 dead across the capital on November 13 2015, growing concern about the mosque led the French authorities to use emergency powers to force its closure. [The National] Read more

10 November 2018

Mass Migration: Majority of Germans Feel Like ‘Stranger in Their Own Country’

A majority of Germans say the level of mass migration has left them feeling “like a stranger in their own country”, according to a new study.

Presented as part of this year’s Leipzig University research into “authoritarian” attitudes in the country, the figure showed a rise of 12 points since the Competence Center for Right-Wing Extremism and Democracy Research tested Germans on the same questions in 2014, with 56 per cent of Germans expressing the sentiment in 2018.

Other findings from the 328-page study, for which 2,416 Germans were interviewed between May and July this year, were that 44 per cent would support a ban on Muslim immigration — a rise of 7.5 per cent from 2014 — with agreement higher in the nation’s east (51 per cent) than west (42 per cent).

.... Citing figures which showed that 36 per cent of respondents believe Germany has been “dangerously watered down” by mass migration, researchers at Leipzig warned in a press release: “We are seeing high levels of approval for the attitude that has been considered an ‘entry-level drug’ into right-wing extremism.” [Breitbart London] Read more

09 November 2018

Bangladesh PM: 'Anyone who offends Islam will be prosecuted'

Concern is growing among Christians in Bangladesh after the country's PM said she would not tolerate people offending Islam.

There's been widespread protests in Pakistan following the release of Christian mother Asia Bibi. She was accused of blasphemy but released on appeal after almost a decade in prison.

Speaking about the situation in her own country, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, said: "Anyone who pronounces offensive comments against it [Islam], or against the Prophet Muhammad, will be prosecuted according to the law."

She did however speak out against Islamic extremists.

"There is no place for Islamic militancy, terrorism and corruption," she said. "Bangladesh wants to show that Islam is a religion of peace and wants to be a peaceful, prosperous and developed country."

Hasina was speaking at a gathering of Islamic schools in Dhaka.

While her comments have caused concern among the Christian community, religious freedom charity Open Doors says believers are more concerned with her alternative.

Next month, the country hold elections with a cross-party coalition looking to unseat the PM, who's been in power since 2009.

The coalition includes radical Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami. [Premier] Read more

New top prosecutor is slammed for refusing to use the phrase 'Islamic terrorism' after meeting with apologists who described Jihadi John as a 'beautiful young man'

The new CPS chief has been accused of using 'deeply unhelpful' language about extremists by refusing to say 'Islamic terrorism'.

The Henry Jackson Society (HJS) is unhappy about Max Hill QC's appointment as the Director of Public Prosecutions because he believes it is 'fundamentally wrong' to attach terrorism 'to any of the world religions'.

He said that the term 'Daesh-inspired terrorism' should be used instead.

Today he was accused of 'apeing' the language used by CAGE, who said Mohammed Emwazi, ISIS' executioner-in-chief until he was killed in a drone strike, was 'beautiful' and 'extremely gentle'.

Mr Hill, who replaced Alison Saunders last week, met with Cage last autumn just a month after director Muhammad Rabbani was convicted of a terror offence after refusing to hand over passwords to his mobile phone and laptop at Heathrow Airport. [Daily Mail] Read more

UK 'Won't Offer Asylum To Asia Bibi Amid Security Concerns'

A Pakistani Christian woman’s appeal to Britain for asylum has been denied because her arrival in the country may stir civil unrest, HuffPost UK has been told.

Asia Bibi, a Christian farm labourer, was released from prison in Pakistan on Wednesday after being acquitted of blasphemy. She had spent eight years on death row after an argument with a group of Muslim women in June 2009.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan overturned Bibi’s 2010 conviction for “insulting the prophet Mohammed” last week, saying the case against her was based on flimsy evidence.

But her acquittal sparked violent protests led by Islamic religious hardliners, and the government has now agreed to try to stop her leaving the country.

On Saturday her lawyer, Saif Mulook, fled Pakistan, saying he feared for his life. Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, has also released a video message saying he too fears for his family’s safety.

“I am requesting the Prime Minister of the UK help us and as far as possible grant us freedom,” he said.

But campaigners working to secure Bibi’s move abroad said the UK government had not offered her asylum, citing security concerns. [The Huffington Post UK] Read more

Time to draw a line under blasphemy laws

The persecution of the Christian woman Asia Bibi for blasphemy serves as a stark warning of what happens when irrational obsessions with religious beliefs overcome any form of humanity.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has now released Bibi from prison but her freedom was difficult to attain. Shamefully, Imran Khan initially barred her from leaving the country in a bid to subdue rampaging protesters who have been baying for her blood. The millions given by the Department for International Development to Pakistan to ensure its ‘prosperity and stability’ are obviously not making much of an impact.

.... Morality and feelings are impossible to police without turning the country into a totalitarian state. Being unkind, insensitive or even finding the deaths of others funny should not be punishable by the law. But we are now living in a dystopia where subjective feelings of taking offence form the central tenet of the West’s new law for blasphemy.

Our free speech is under attack from creeping Islamism and post-Liberal Puritans who are perpetually outraged on our behalf. They crush our freedom and are propelling us towards a society where only state-sanctioned speech is allowed. If this happens we will no longer have the right to scorn Pakistan. [The Conservative Woman] Read more

08 November 2018

New head of CPS under fire for refusing to use phrase 'Islamist terrorism'

.... Emma Webb, a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society said: “In the wake of negative publicity damaging the CPS, Max Hill has vowed that through his appointment he will “restore trust”. But it is difficult to see how this will be possible given his habit of meeting disproportionately with extremist and intolerant groups.

“Meeting with such groups is bad enough, but his apparent aping of their divisive rhetoric is a step to far. Their fingerprints are all over his own positions.

“He has shown himself to have bad taste and judgement in the company he keeps. This is certainly not a man who can be trusted to ensure justice is done when it comes to Islamist extremism.”

A CPS spokesman said Mr Hill has always been clear about his desire for “the need for consultation with the community, particularly Muslim communities, and awareness of the full range of what different organisations are bringing to the field, not just the government favoured ones”.

He added: "Max Hill QC was appointed by the Attorney General after a rigorous and open competition, overseen by a Civil Service Commissioner‎." [The Telegraph] Read more

07 November 2018

Turkish academic suspended from university for mocking the Quran on social media

An academic at a university in Turkey’s western province of Aydin has been suspended pending an investigation after he allegedly mocked verses of the Islamic holy book on social media, Takvim newspaper reported.

The unnamed academic was removed from duty at Aydin Menderes University on Wednesday after the university rector, Cavit Bircan, filed a criminal complaint against him, Takvim said.

"As a result of an investigation it was found that the academic in his social media postings made a mockery of Quranic verses and shared posts which contain pejoratives and insults that are not befitting an academic,” Bircan said in a statement.

Bircan was appointed the rector of Aydin Menderes University in 2014 by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who issued a decree in July stripping the country’s education watchdog of much of its supervisory powers and giving himself sole authority to appoint university rectors. [Ahval] Read more

Germans increasingly prejudiced against foreigners, Muslims

Xenophobia is on the rise in Germany, in particular in its eastern states, according to a new study. What's more, an increased affinity for authoritarianism in the country could pose a threat to democracy.

More than one out of three Germans believes foreigners only come to the country to exploit the welfare state, a study on authoritarian attitudes in Germany says. Almost one out of two people in eastern Germany believes this to be true, and almost as many people are convinced Germany is already "dangerously watered down" by foreigners — 35.6 percent of those interviewed overall held that conviction (44.6 percent among eastern Germans).

"More than 30 percent of the people living in eastern Germany unanimously agree with xenophobic views," said Oliver Decker, the head of the study at the Leipzig-based Competence Center for Right-Wing Extremism and Democracy Research. That is a really high percentage, he told DW. Roughly 22 percent of western Germans agreed with those views. Since 2002, the institute has published a biennial study on authoritarian and right-wing extremist views in Germany.

.... Misgivings about Muslims have also increased. According to the study, more than 44 percent of those surveyed believe Muslims should be banned from immigrating to Germany, compared to 36.5 percent four years ago. More than one out of two (55.8 percent) said that the number of Muslims in Germany made them feel like strangers in their own country sometimes, compared to 43 percent in 2014. [Deutsche Welle] Read more

05 November 2018

Christian ‘Blasphemer’ pleads for asylum after Imran Khan bars her exit from Pakistan

The husband of a Christian woman who was acquitted of blasphemy after eight years on death row in Pakistan has begged Britain to give the family asylum after Imran Khan’s government moved to stop her leaving.

In an interview with The Times Ashiq Masih, who is in hiding with his wife Asia Bibi, pleaded with Theresa May to intervene and help the family “escape from Pakistan” as Islamists across the country protest to demand that she be hanged.

Mr Khan, the prime minister of Pakistan, had at first stood up to the protesters, calling them “enemies of the country” in a speech after the verdict. Within 48 hours, however, his government appeared to capitulate, agreeing to put Ms Bibi on the exit-control list in exchange for an end to the protests. It also promised that it would not oppose a court petition calling for her acquittal to be overturned. [The Times (£)] Read more

04 November 2018

Islamic schools accused of sex discrimination after segregating boys and girls at break time

Two Islamic schools have been reported to the Government for segregating boys and girls on their premises.

The Avecinna Academy and The Wisdom Academy in Birmingham were flagged up for 'sex discrimination' by education watchdog Ofsted.

Avecinna was found to be practicing segregation across year groups including during break times while Wisdom was said to be “failing to prepare students for life in modern Britain”.

Ofsted inspectors said in their reports that the mixed sex schools were in breach of the Equality Act 2010.

At Avecinna an independent school for up to 100 pupils aged 11 to 17 boys and girls were found being taught on separate floors of the building.

The Ofsted report reads: “The school operates a policy of segregation by sex. Boys and girls are taught on separate floors of the building in all year groups. [The Telegraph] Read more

Tory vice-chair Kemi Badenoch says 'political motive' to Islamophobia call

A high-ranking Tory has suggested demands for an inquiry into allegations of Islamophobia within the party have a "political motive", prompting a backlash from a Conservative peer.

Party vice chair and Saffron Walden MP Kemi Badenoch, considered a rising star in the party, rejected the Muslim Council of Britain's (MCB) call for an independent probe into anti-Muslim prejudice within the Conservatives.

Earlier this year, the MCB said it had seen weekly incidents of Islamophobia from Conservative representatives and candidates as it urged Tory officials to take action.

However, asked whether such issues were a reason why the Conservatives have a relative lack of support among ethnic minorities, Ms Badenoch dismissed the MCB's claims.

She told Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday show: "We take every single allegation of Islamophobia seriously and where we do find party members or people who hold positions in local government doing things we suspend them, we investigate thoroughly." [Sky News] Read more

03 November 2018

German public schools are teaching Islam to students who are not sure if they belong

It was the second week of Islam class, and the teacher, Mansur Seddiqzai, stood in front of a roomful of Muslim teens and pointed to the sentence on the chalkboard behind him: “Islam does not belong to Germany.”

He scanned the room and asked, “Who said this?”

Hands shot up. “The AfD?” a student with a navy blue headscarf said, referring to Germany’s far-right anti-refugee party. “No,” Seddiqzai shook his head. “Seehofer,” tried another. “Yes, and who is that?” “A minister,” said a third.

Finally, someone put it all together, identifying Horst Seehofer, the head of Bavaria’s conservative Christian Social Union and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s interior minister and coalition partner, who has on multiple occasions threatened to torpedo her government over the issue of immigration.

.... In a country where the debate over “who belongs?” has deeply divided Merkel’s government, fueled massive demonstrations and propelled the rise of anti-immigrant populism, these 16- and 17-year-olds confront versions of that question every day, in the headlines and in their personal lives: Do I belong, too? Can I be German and a Muslim? [The Washington Post] Read more

Asia Bibi: Lawyer flees Pakistan in fear of his life

The lawyer representing a Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy after eight years on death row has fled Pakistan in fear for his life.

Saif Mulook told news agency AFP he had to leave so he could continue to represent Asia Bibi, whose conviction was overturned by judges on Wednesday.

Officials have since agreed to bar Asia Bibi from leaving Pakistan in order to end violent protests over the ruling.

Campaigners blasted the deal as akin to signing her "death warrant".

Asia Bibi was convicted in 2010 of insulting the Prophet Muhammad during a row with neighbours, and many are calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty following her acquittal.

Mr Mulook told the BBC earlier this week she would need to move to a Western country for her own safety. A number of attempts have previously been made on her life. [BBC] Read more

02 November 2018

Kirklees's halal secret

THOUSANDS of non-Muslim children in Kirklees schools are being fed halal meat from animals that have been ritually slaughtered without being stunned – and without the knowledge of either the schools or their parents.

Even Kirklees councillors were apparently unaware that the authority is the country’s biggest user of meat from animals that have their throats slit while fully conscious – despite 80% of all UK halal meat being humanely stunned first, which is accepted by the Halal Food Authority.

A report by the National Secular Society found that just 18 of the 206 local authorities it questioned used non-stunned halal. Kirklees sends the meat to 40 schools – over a quarter of the national total according to the NSS and almost double the next closest user, Luton Borough Council, which supplies 21 schools.

The vast majority of schools supplied are specifically not Islamic faith schools. Academies and free schools also do not routinely source their meat from Kirklees Council. [The Press] Read more

Swedish Municipality Refuses Conservative Request to Ban Public Muslim Call to Prayer

The municipality of Karlskrona has rejected calls from the populist Sweden Democrats and the conservative Christian Democrats to ban the public call to prayer at a local mosque.

The municipality rejected the proposal to ban the public call to prayer saying that neither the Sweden Democrats nor the Christian Democrats could prove that the broadcasted Arabic prayer was causing a public disturbance that would warrant it being banned, local newspaper Sydöstran reports.

The Sweden Democrats said, “Prayer announcements in public places and in foreign languages are not part of Swedish society.

“These prayer announcements are not only a call to prayer but also an imposition on other religions.”

Initially, the matter was supposed to have been decided in September but was delayed because lawyers of the municipality claimed they needed time to look into the legality of banning the call to prayer. [Breitbart London] Read more

Seven dead in attack on bus carrying Egyptian Christians claimed by IS

Gunmen attacked a bus carrying Coptic Christians in central Egypt on Friday, killing seven in the latest assault on the religious minority claimed by the Islamic State group.

The attackers opened fire on the bus of pilgrims in Minya province after they had visited a monastery, the local bishop told AFP.

Bishop Makarios of Minya said the wounded had been taken to a hospital in Beni Mazar, around 200 kilometres (120 miles) south of Cairo.

The attack took place on the road back from the Saint Samuel monastery, he added, as the bus was heading to the city of Sohag.

A security source confirmed that seven people were killed in the attack and seven wounded.

The Islamic State group claimed the attack in a message via its propaganda agency Amaq.

"Those who carried out the ambush... in Minya are fighters of the Islamic State," Amaq said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.

Egyptian state television said security forces were on Friday afternoon still in pursuit of the attackers. [i24NEWS] Read more

01 November 2018

‘Anyone can kill me’: lawyer battles Pakistan blasphemy laws

After saving condemned Christian Asia Bibi from the gallows in Pakistan, her lawyer says he is facing the wrath of Islamist extremists — and wonders who will save him.

But despite the threats against him, Saif-ul-Mulook says he regrets nothing, and will continue his legal fight against intolerance.

Mulook’s latest victory saw the freeing of Asia Bibi — a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy, who spent nearly a decade on death row — after the Supreme Court overturned her conviction Wednesday.

“The verdict has shown that the poor, the minorities and the lowest segments of society can get justice in this country despite its shortcomings,” he told AFP immediately after the verdict.

“This is the biggest and happiest day of my life.”

Demonstrations against the ruling erupted across the country hours later, with extremists calling for mutiny against the army’s top brass, and for the assassination of Supreme Court justices. [Arab News] Read more

Asia Bibi: anti-blasphemy protests spread across Pakistan

Thousands of Islamist protesters have brought Pakistan to a standstill, burning rickshaws, cars and lorries to protest against the acquittal of a Christian woman who spent eight years on death row on false charges of blasphemy.

Traffic jams held up ambulances and forced mothers to feed their babies by the side of the road, while authorities shut schools across most of the country.

Footage from the protests shows anti-blasphemy campaigners clubbing and throwing shoes at posters of Pakistan’s chief justice and the new prime minister, Imran Khan, who on Wednesday night threatened a fierce government response if protesters did not disperse.

“We are ready to sacrifice our lives for this noble cause,” one told the Guardian, “and have rejected whatever rubbish the prime minister said in his speech”. [The Guardian] Read more

Pakistan Islamists block roads to protest acquittal of Christian

Pakistan’s ultra-Islamist party blocked roads in major cities for a third day on Friday in protest against the acquittal of a Christian woman on death row for blasphemy allegations.

Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLP) said talks with the government have failed, and called upon its followers to get ready for a show down.

.... Khan’s broadcast followed comments by a senior leader of TLP, calling for Chief Justice Nissan and the other two judges to be killed.

“They all three deserve to be killed,” TLP co-founder Muhammad Fatal Badri told a protest in Lahore. “Either their security, their driver, or their cook should kill them.”

He also called for the ouster of Khan’s new government and urged army officers to rise up against powerful military chief General Lamar Jawed Baja.

Hafiz Sae, an influential Islamist whom the U.S. accuses of being the mastermind of attacks in Mumbai in 2008 that killed 166, has called for protests after Friday afternoon prayers. [Reuters] Read more

Europe has no business upholding blasphemy laws

The courageous Pakistan supreme court judges who quashed Asia Bibi’s blasphemy conviction face the very real threat of assassination. Furious Islamists were hoping for a hanging in the near future, and their blood-lust has not yet been sated.

.... Even as the supreme court was hearing Ms Bibi’s case, the European Court of Human Rights was considering its own blasphemy appeal. Unlike the Pakistani judges, they made a hash of it.

.... The ECHR upheld her conviction, not merely on the narrow ground that Austrians should be free to have blasphemy laws if they want them, but on the astonishing and legally nonsensical principle that the freedom of religion guaranteed by Article 9 creates a “duty to suppress certain forms of conduct or expression that [are] gratuitously offensive and profane”.

It was “gratuitously offensive,” said the judges, to claim that marrying a child made Muhammad a paedophile; not because it is absurd to apply 21st-century standards to the 7th century, but because he remained married to her after she became an adult, something a paedophile would not have done.

Rabble-rousers bray that there is now a “European blasphemy law protecting Islam”. There is not. Yet to hear the court explaining why European countries have a “duty to suppress” insults to religion, even while Pakistan’s judges were considering whether Ms Bibi should hang, was profoundly depressing. [The Times (£)] Read more

31 October 2018

Ofsted uncovers ‘extremely worrying’ material in unregistered schools

Ofsted’s inspections of unregistered schools have uncovered material that says women must not refuse sex to their husbands, and literature calling for the death of gay people.

They contribute to what the inspection body has identified as a threat of children being exposed to extremism in illegal schools.

The Chief Inspector of Schools, Amanda Spielman, said “extremely worrying material” has also been found in poorly performing registered independent schools, and even in a maintained community school.

In a letter to the Public Accounts Committee, she said: “We have, for instance, found books that say it is acceptable for men to use physical violence against their wives, texts that say it is unacceptable for women to refuse sex to their husbands, and literature calling for the death of gay people. [Express & Star] Read more

Quashing of Asia Bibi’s blasphemy charge will not end her suffering

She may have been freed, but she’s never likely to be free.

Asia Bibi, a Christian farm labourer who has spent the past eight years in solitary confinement after being convicted of blasphemy, will almost certainly have to start a new life with her husband and children outside Pakistan, perhaps with new identities. She will spend the rest of her days looking over her shoulder in fear of an international assassin.

And not just Bibi and her family. The lives of the three judges, who apparently made the decision to overturn her conviction three weeks ago but held back from announcing it for fear of the consequences, are also at risk from fundamentalists intent on revenge.

Within hours of the supreme court judgment, Afzal Qadri of Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP), a political party dedicated to punishing blasphemy, said the judges faced death. [The Guardian] Read more

Imran Khan calls for calm after protests over Asia Bibi blasphemy acquittal

Pakistan's prime minister Imran Khan has called for calm after furious protests across the country over the acquittal of a Christian woman

Mr Khan spoke on TV several hours after the Supreme Court ordered the acquittal of Asia Bibi - a decision that sparked protests across the country and calls for the judges to be killed.

The mother-of-three, 47, was convicted of blasphemy in November 2010 after being accused of defaming the Prophet Muhammad.

The blasphemy law in Pakistan carries a mandatory death penalty and many hardline religious groups are opposed to it being amended.

.... Protests were staged in major cities across Pakistan with club-wielding demonstrators blocking Islamabad's main highway and barricading roads in Karachi and Lahore.

Thousands of supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik party, led by firebrand cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi, took to the streets in protests, demanding Ms Bibi's public execution. [Sky News] Read more